Thailand is relatively hot all year round, although officially it has three main seasons. In Summer (March – June), temperatures can soar above 40 degrees, particularly in the northeast and Bangkok. Thai New Year, or Songkran, falls in April, the hottest month. To relieve themselves from the heat, Thais throw water at each other during the three-day Songkran festival.
The rainy season (July – October) brings lots of downpours and heavy rainfall, usually in the late afternoons or early mornings. Temperatures are moderately high, but it can feel very uncomfortable due to high humidity level.
The most welcomed season is the cool season (November – February), which brings a relatively dry and pleasant climate. Temperatures rarely rise above 35 degrees during the day.
When to Go to Thailand
The best time to visit Thailand is between November and February, when the climate is relatively cool and dry (25-32°C). While Bangkok usually sees insignificant temperature drop, the northern and northeastern provinces can be rather cold. And if you plan to take a trip into the mountains, be sure to bring a sweater or warm jacket.
December is the festive season, like in the West. Some of the most colourful festivals, such as Loy Krathong, Trooping of the Colours and New Year’s, fall in this period. Major shopping districts, particularly those in Bangkok, add to the year-end spirit by sporting decorative lights and Christmas-theme décors. The only drawback for arriving during this period is that popular destinations are crowded, and hotel rooms are in short supply. Prices for accommodation, tours, transportation and certain goods are usually bumped up to take advantage of the tourist influx.
Arriving between March and May will put you right through Thailand’s summer, when temperatures can climb above 40°C. Coupled with high humidity, it may feel more like you are actually in a giant heated oven with no escape route, except occasional visits to air-conditioned shopping malls and dining establishments. The monsoon season (June-September) is usually very wet and humid. But the good news is that you can always hide out in a mall, spa or restaurant to escape the heavy downpours which usually don’t last more than a couple hours. Also, the rain breathes new life in the countryside, abundant with rice fields and trees. National parks and waterfalls are usually at their best.
What to Wear
Forget tight pants and clinging dresses (at least during the day) and go for light, loose cotton clothing. Formal dresses, suits and ties may be necessary for business travellers or if you plan to visit exclusive dining venues and official events. When visiting temples, certain museums and the Grand Palace, remember to dress politely; shorts, singlets, spaghetti straps, skirts, tank-tops and open backed sandals are not acceptable.
What to Bring
Though you will find most items in Thailand, it might be a good idea to bring certain personal items from home. Remember also to bring any medicine you are taking. Light cotton clothing is recommended in Thailand’s tropical climate, as well as a pair of comfortable walking shoes. Your list should include:
- Mosquito repellent
- Sun glasses
- Foldable umbrella
- Pain killers
- Antiseptic lotion or spray
- Anti-diarrhoea medication
- Traveller’s first aid kit
- Drug prescriptions
- Photocopies of official documents
Tourists from many countries (including the US, UK, Germany, France and Singapore) do not require a visa when entering Thailand and can stay for a duration of 30-days. In many of these countries (including the US, UK, Australia, Germany, France and Singapore) you can apply for a 60-day tourist visa before you leave. If you hold a Brazilian, Peruvian or South Korean passport, you are exempted from visa requirements and are permitted to enter and stay in Thailand for a period of not exceeding 90 days.
Citizens of some other countries are required to apply for a 15-day visa at immigration checkpoints on arrival, while others must apply for one before they leave. It all depends on the particular visa arrangement Thailand has with your home country. The best way to find out is to check with either the Thai Immigration Bureau or the Thai Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
Coming to Thailand for business is a whole different story. Check out the Legalities section of our Business Essentials Guide for information about the visas necessary for those looking to work or gain employment here.